Parliament committee signs off on state of emergency extension

The parliamentary national security committee on Monday approved to extend the state of emergency by another 15 days but removed three of the constitutional rights originally suspended by president Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

President Yameen on Monday asked the parliament to extend the ongoing state of emergency by another 15 days as the united opposition boycotted the special sitting.

The motion to send the decree proposed by the chief government lawmaker Ahmed Nihan Hussain Manik was backed unanimously by the 38 government MPs present during the special sitting.

The island nation has been embroiled in fresh political turmoil after the Supreme Court on February 1 ordered the immediate release of jailed political leaders including self-exiled former president Mohamed Nasheed.

President Yameen had declared a 15 day state of emergency after his last ditch attempt to convince the top court to revoke the order failed as the apex court rejected the government's 'legal and judicial' concerns over the order.

Though the state of emergency which would expire on Tuesday, the constitution states that the parliament must decide on the emergency within 14 days if it is not in session at the time of the declaration.

During the special sitting on Monday, president Yameen in his decree asked the parliament to grant him an extension of the state of emergency by another 15 days.

Deputy speaker Moosa Manik who is a member of the committee told reporters that the committee had voted in favour of extending emergency state but proposed to restore Articles 100, 101 and 228.

Article 100 deals with the removal of the president or the vice president from office, while Article 101 stipulates censure motions against cabinet ministers. Article 228 deals with the removal of the prosecutor general.

Manik said the three opposition lawmakers in the committee had also been present during the sit-down to review the state of emergency extension.

The decree must now move to the parliament floor for a vote which is expected later Monday. However, the government is facing a stiff struggle to meet the constitutionally mandated number of lawmakers to go for a vote.

According to Article 87 (b) "Despite the provisions of Article 86 of this Constitution, voting on any matter requiring compliance by citizens shall only be undertaken when more than half of the total membership of the People’s Majlis are present at the sitting at which the matter is voted upon."

This means the vote to send the decree to the parliamentary committee violates the constitution as only 39 members were present as opposed to the minimum 43.

Opposition meanwhile claimed that the government was attempting to sway some united opposition lawmakers into attending the sitting.

Opposition Jumhoory Party (JP) deputy leader Abdulla Riyaz said the government had approached and "made offers" to some of the opposition lawmakers in a bid to meet the required number of lawmakers to extend the state of emergency.

The Kinbidhoo lawmaker alleged that the government had sent the decree to the parliamentary committee because it had failed to meet the required numbers.

"We've received word that the government has been making offers to some of the opposition MPs. The government and some businessmen loyal to the government are acting in a way that leads to corruption. This is something we strongly condemn," Riyaz alleged.

Main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) chief lawmaker Ibrahim Mohamed Solih alleged that the government had expected to meet the required number of lawmakers before the special sitting was scheduled.

However, when the government failed, now it was trying to get the numbers from the opposition, the Hinnavaru MP claimed.

"Some our MPs may have told the government that they would attend the sitting as a joke. So maybe the government was misled into believing that they would meet the required number of lawmakers. But our MPs won't be swayed. They won't give president Yameen anymore chances," Solih stressed.

Ahead of a special sitting, Maldives top court delivered a major blow to opposition hopes of revoking the state of emergency after it late Sunday ordered the relevant institutions to hold off on the reinstatement of a dozen opposition lawmakers.

Hours after the stay order, parliament secretariat had revoked the invitations sent out to the dozen opposition lawmakers for the special sitting.

The court had also annulled its anti-defection ruling and ordered the country's electoral watchdog to re-instate the dozen rebel government lawmakers disqualified over the ruling. The Supreme Court said the anti-defection ruling was issued as a temporary solution to the constitutional dispute case filed by the state but insisted that the relevant authorities have failed to bring to effect an anti-defection law specified in the ruling.

The reinstatement of the 12 lawmakers disqualified by the country's elections commission would mean that the united opposition would now have parliament majority which has the power to revoke or extend the state of emergency.

President Yameen has used the rights suspended under emergency state to crackdown hard on the opposition as police have made a series of high profile arrests including Gayoom, three lawmakers, chief justice Abdulla Saeed, top court judge Ali Hameed and the chief judicial administrator.

Less than a day after the arrest of the two judges, the remaining three judges rescinded its ruling to release the political leaders referring to the concerns raised by president Yameen in the letters he had sent to the chief justice hours before state of emergency was declared.

The top court had not rescinded the part of the order which quashed its anti-defection ruling ordering the country's electoral watchdog to re-instate the dozen government lawmakers disqualified over the ruling which the government had not even contested.

However, the Supreme Court late Sunday revealed that the country's Attorney General has now filed a constitutional dispute seeking to annul the remaining part of the February 1 order which had been signed by the full top court bench.

The remaining three judge bench has asked the parliament along with the elections commission to hold off on reinstating the dozen lawmakers until it decides on the case.

The latest of a series of more than contentious orders by the apex court since the arrest of the two judges would come as a major blow to opposition hopes of revoking the state of emergency which according to government sources president Yameen would seek to extend.

Police have accused Gayoom of bribing the two top court judges to issue the order in a bid to overthrow the government.